CFWI students receive Rising Star awards at Niagara Wine Festival


Student Nathaniel Labatte stands with NC president Dan Patterson and CFWI associate dean Gary Torraville at the RBC Reception at the Niagara Wine Festival. Leanne Breukelman was unable to attend the Niagara Wine Festival to receive the award.

Two NC students were announced as Rising Star award winners at the Niagara Wine Festival.

Culinary Management student Leanne Breukelman, and Winery and Viticulture Technician student Nathaniel Labatte were inaugural recipients of the RBC Niagara Rising Star Bursary Awards, each receiving a $1,000 bursary to continue their education in Niagara.

Presented at the festival’s RBC Reception, the awards recognize top individuals currently pursing their education in the wine and culinary arts. Each award acknowledges rising stars in their respective fields who embody the future of Niagara’s internationally recognized wine and culinary industries—one of the top employers in the region.

Labatte was nominated for the Wine Rising Star Award by CFWI dean Craig Youdale and wine faculty. He was noted for being a top performer in the classroom, achieving nothing below a 94% average each term, as well as for his responsiveness to new ideas and concepts, and his passion for the wine industry. Labatte is a regular volunteer at industry events as well as on-campus activities. He currently works at Rosewood Estates.

The St. Catharines resident noted that the award was meaningful to him. “I feel proud to be recognized for all the hard work I have put into the last year and to know that I stood out among the crowd,” he said. “I am really enjoying the program and feel this award only further compounds my own desire to pursue a career in the wine industry.”

He also attributed his experience at  NC to be a major contributor to his successes. ” Being able to participate/volunteer for various events and get all the hands all experience through the courses has made me feel more prepared for the future than I could have hoped, and allowed me to make connections that will help me in the future,” said Labatte.

Breukelman was nominated by Youdale and the culinary faculty for the Culinary Rising Star award. The Vineland resident was noted for her talent and leadership in the classroom and in the workplace, as well as her work ethic in the kitchen, and was recognized for her leadership in sanitation and sustainability. She recently completed her first year of studies with a 90% average, marking her as an Honour Roll student. In April 2017, she was part of a student duo that won a silver medal for NC at The Great Amazing Duck Race, hosted by King Cole Duck Farms.

Currently in P.E.I. as part of her co-op training with the Murphy Group of Restaurants, Breukelman was unable to attend the event to receive her award. she currently works at the Merchant Man in Charlottetown. She plans to return to Niagara soon and will be working at the Grand Oak Culinary Market in Vineland.

Don’t miss NC at the Niagara Wine Festival

The NC Teaching Winery is a participating winery in the Niagara Wine Festival. Festival-goers at Montebello Park may visit the NC Teaching Winery booth to sip  2011 Dean’s List Pinot Noir (HL),  2016 Gewurztraminer, and  2013 Unoaked Chardonnay.

The NC Teaching Winery is also part of the Niagara Wine Festival’s Discovery Pass experience.

Those who visit the NCT Winery may enjoy smoked lamb and beef merguez sausage with manchego and sweet vegetable chutney on crostini from Benchmark restaurant, paired with the NC Teaching Winery’s 2011 Dean’s List Pinot Noir.  ($10 without a Discovery Pass).

Discovery Passes are valid from Sept. 9 to Sept. 24. Passholders can enjoy eight experiences per pass, savouring local wine and cuisine at participating wineries. They are $40 each or $30 for Drivers (Alcohol-free discovery passes.  For info and to purchase click here.

Niagara College is a sponsor of the Niagara Wine Festival. Visit

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